Jonathan Cohn

Elizabeth Edwards, 1949-2010

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Elizabeth Edwards lost her long battle with cancer on Tuesday morning.

She became a celebrity because of her status as a political spouse. But she leveraged that celebrity in order to advance the causes in which she believed. And no cause was as important to her as health care reform.

Edwards took her advocacy seriously and, fittingly, she was a serious advocate. A lawyer with a degree from the University of North Carolina, Edwards studied the health care system closely. Having interviewed her a few times, I can tell you that she understood the policy debate better than most politicians and, yes, quite a few journalists. But it was her passion for the issue that really stood out. She thought that making the health care system more decent and humane was a moral imperative. And she didn't shy away from talking about it in those terms.

Following the revelations of her husband's infidelity, which happened just as her cancer was returning, the media started describing her as a tragic figure. But she had come to know the true meaning of tragedy many years before, when her son, a teenager, died in a car crash. That she rebuilt her life and spent so much of her life advocating for others was truly admirable.

Edwards will not be forgotten. But she will be missed.

 

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